By Rep. Tom Price, M.D. (R-Ga.) - 07/13/10 10:36 PM EDT
There are so many reasons the Obama administration and congressional Democrats gave to justify their government takeover of healthcare that have now been debunked. Few, however, are more attractive than their claim that ObamaCare would do wonders for America’s fiscal situation. To quote the president, it would not “add one dime to our deficits.” So the Democrats set out to concoct budgetary gimmicks such as the double counting of potential savings and shifting the majority of spending toward the end of the decade. And in doing so, they were able to secure a flattering score from the Congressional Budget Office that said the new healthcare law would supposedly reduce deficits by $143 billion during the next decade.
Wouldn’t it be great if their wishing made it so? In reality, ObamaCare — along with almost every item in the Democrats’ big government agenda — will contribute to a worsening of our nation’s fiscal situation.
The real cost of ObamaCare is a story that continues to be written. However, in just the three short months since its enactment, the facts belie any promises made by the administration or congressional Democrats on fiscal responsibility.
In May, the Congressional Budget Office released a new cost estimate that said discretionary spending under the law would actually add about $115 billion more to our debt. This news came out just after an announcement by the Obama administration’s own Chief Actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that ObamaCare would add another $311 billion to our already increasing national healthcare spending. In short, the new law will cost the government (taxpayers) and consumers more than had been promised and, further, more than would have occurred if Democrats had not passed their misguided government takeover.
But discretionary cost increases due to implementation of the mammoth new health care regime only tell one part of the story. It appears that ObamaCare’s framers also underestimated the costs from forcing millions of Americans off their current employer-provided healthcare plan. ObamaCare’s employer mandates, woefully insufficient small business tax credits, and their requirements for “acceptable coverage” will create an overwhelming financial incentive for employers to stop providing health coverage for their employees. This makes those who favor a big government presence in individual healthcare decisions happy as they see Washington gain more power. It also means taxpayers will face a remarkable and unpredictable increase in their costs very soon.
Misstating or miscalculating the cost of ObamaCare was, however, always going to be part of the game for the administration and congressional Democrats. They made a clear political calculation that in order to sell the bill, they needed the mirage that it was fiscally responsible. That shortsighted, opportunistic approach was used to hide a fiscal train wreck, as some of the programs within ObamaCare were setup to be inadequate from the start.
One of the prime examples is the much-touted high-risk pools the White House claims will provide Americans with pre-existing medical conditions an affordable insurance option. The program will only work as planned if Washington provides adequate funding. However, the current budget includes $5 billion over 10 years for the state-based high-risk pools. With nearly seven million Americans potentially eligible for coverage in a high-risk pool, the president and congressional Democrats have provided funding sufficient to cover only 200,000 people. This is not likely an unintended oversight but rather a willful effort to hide the true cost of their program. The administration and congressional Democrats owe it to the American people to come clean on this and all the other failures in their government takeover of healthcare.
Ultimately, the true costs of ObamaCare are not just budgetary. This new law will radically alter America’s healthcare delivery system and disrupt the sacred doctor-patient relationship. That is far too high a price to pay, particularly when there are patient-centered health reforms available today that would not require budgeting gimmicks and half-measures. Left in place, ObamaCare will contribute to the rising cost of healthcare, an unsustainable fiscal nightmare for the federal government, and a decline in quality care. The American people deserve better.
Rep. Price is chairman of the Republican Study Committee.